The United States, standing alone against the other 14 members of the Security Council, Tuesday formally vetoed Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali’s re-election to a second, five-year term as the United Nations’ top official.
Boutros-Ghali refused to withdraw in the face of the American opposition, and his spokeswoman Sylvana Foa said the vote underscored the support he enjoys from the overwhelming majority of the United Nations’ 185 member countries.
“This is just the opening round. He’s in it until the Security Council makes a final decision,” Foa said.
That set the stage for a potential protracted deadlock in the effort to decide who will lead the worldwide U.N. bureaucracy for the five years beginning Jan. 1.
Boutros-Ghali’s supporters, led by the African bloc, can keep submitting the veteran Egyptian diplomat’s name to the council for new votes. But the United States, one of five permanent members with the right to veto any council decision, can keep blocking his re-election.
The record number of vetoes cast in earlier years was 15 in 1981, when China stopped the Council from nominating Kurt Waldheim for a third term.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Madeleine K. Albright reiterated after the secret ballot that the United States is prepared to use its veto indefinitely. If African nations want a secretary general from their continent, they should start looking for an alternative to BoutrosGhali, she said.
The Clinton administration says it and the U.S. Congress have lost confidence in the ability of Boutros-Ghali, 74, to reshape the secretariat so it can function effectively in the next century. U.S. officials insist they will continue to oppose him even if it means estrangement from the rest of the membership.
U.S. officials say they were motivated primarily by a desire to overcome anti-United Nations sentiment in Congress, which refuses to pay almost $1.5 billion in back dues owed by the United States.
Because Boutros-Ghali has become a symbol of much that congressional conservatives dislike about the United Nations, the administration hopes that getting rid of him would encourage Congress to pay the bills, which are the principal cause of the United Nations’ current financial crisis.
As a gesture toward Africa, the United States has agreed to an election formula that would limit the next round of balloting to African candidates.
If that round fails to produce agreement on a new secretary general, the field then would be opened to candidates from other parts of the world.